From about 6 years old, I always wanted to be an actor. 23 years later, I still can’t quite put my finger on what I love most about performing but having trained at a top UK drama school, and with agent contract signed, I finally entered the industry in 2016.

Far from being immediately whisked away to Hollywood, the majority of my time I experienced, what actors affectionately refer to as, “resting” (unemployment). With bills to pay I took on a large number of jobs alongside acting (most of them all at the same time). Some of these included:

  • Ticketing Assistant
  • Performance Teacher
  • Stage Door Administrator
  • Murder Mystery Planner
  • Events Supervisor
  • Front Of House Assistant
  • Radio Station Promotional Team
  • Children’s Party Entertainer
  • Receptionist
  • Escape Room Host

After three months as an escape room host, I was offered the opportunity to step up into a full time manager position. As this also meant a pay rise, it allowed me to free up some personal time and limit my jobs to a more manageable three; actor, teacher and newly appointed escape room manager.

Now that I had some free time, I needed a hobby to fill it with.

My Code Journey

Despite loving computers, I never had the opportunity to learn anything about code. About three years ago, Tom, my friend, and boss at the time, offered to teach me some basics. At this point I had absolutely no intention of making a career in tech. I wanted a hobby and this seemed like it might be fun.

Tom introduced me to a free piece of software called GameMaker. GameMaker has its own programming language, GML, but it’s great for learning the key concepts of code. My first bit of code moved a cartoon cat’s head around a black screen. It was frivolous, interactive and fun. I was hooked.

Starting with GameMaker, and no long term plans or visions of grand developer jobs, meant that I started a process of learning by project. I wasn’t trying to learn the language, all I wanted was the giant mouse to move, at a random speed, as my floating cat head tried to dodge it! And if I didn’t know how to do it, then Google became my best friend, until I worked it out, then it was on to the next challenge... “Wouldn’t it be cool if the cat could pick up and lay mouse traps!”.

A few months later, Tom introduced me to coding electronics using Arduino and I started saying things like “Wouldn’t it be cool if pressing that button unlocked the box!”. My trusty search engine was right by my side.

Finally, about two years ago, I discovered Scrimba. Web development had seemed like the holy grail. There were so many complicated moving parts to creating a website and I had zero idea where to start. Drawn in by Scrimba’s interactive video format, I clicked play on Kevin Powell’s free HTML & CSS Crash Course. The combination of Kevin’s teaching style and Scrimba’s interactive platform was mind-blowing. Suddenly everything that had felt out of reach, was feeling at my fingertips... “Wouldn’t it be cool if I made a website to showcase my acting career!”

Then came the first pandemic lockdown in the UK. With the furlough money enough to keep me afloat, I started coding every day. By this point I was learning React on Scrimba’s Frontend Developer Career Path (still just a hobby) and, after playing a particularly poor online puzzle game with my partner I said “wouldn’t it be cool if we made our own puzzle game!”. This was the start of my first major project, it saw me code every day, building the code in React, problem solving the challenges and testing the results. When we came back from lockdown, I started to think “ I could continue to code everyday!”.

I didn’t have long to wait because we were once again plunged into lockdown where me and my partner created our second puzzle game. You can play the demo for this one at

Emerging once more from lockdown, my mind was made up, it was no longer a hobby, it was an aspiration. For the first time, I disagreed with my 6 year old self, I didn’t want to be an actor, I wanted to be a developer.

Advice On Learning To Code

There is a lot of pressure out there to learn and progress quickly and there is nothing wrong with becoming a developer in three months if you can, but I would like to advocate for the opposite. Absolutely stick at it, aim to make progress week-on-week, but don’t obsess over how long the process will take. Allow yourself time to enjoy it, and always remember that getting your first job is not the end goal. It is just one milestone in the journey.

Make your learning project based. Scrimba’s Career Path is excellent, but it will not support your job search alone. Projects are crucial to challenge your learning, apply your knowledge in new ways, and test your problem solving skills.

Do not build boring projects! Build projects which you find exciting, either because of the process of building them will be fun, or because the finished product will be useful / whimsically enjoyable. As well as keeping you motivated, you will be more likely to take on challenges outside your comfort zone and, big bonus, more likely to make projects for your portfolio which are different to other job seekers.

My Job Hunt Journey

As I hit the last module of the Scrimba Frontend Career Path in late November 2021, I set myself a challenge; to be ready to apply for jobs by the end of the year. The criteria I set for “being ready” was:

  • Complete the Scrimba Frontend Career Path
  • Update my LinkedIn (the Scrimba lessons on this are top class)
  • Create my brand new CV
  • Build my portfolio website

My portfolio went live on the morning of New Years Eve. Mission accomplished, so it was time for a new goal. Downing my final glass of Prosecco as Big Ben rang, I decided I needed to be a developer by the time I turned 30. I am delighted to say the project was completed ahead of time, with 8 months to spare. Some stats on my job search:

  • Applications made → 32
  • Heard back from (interview or rejection) → 11
  • First Round Interviews → 4
  • Interviews which progressed to second round → 3
  • Times CV redesigned → 4
  • Average episodes of Scrimba podcast listened to a week → 9

In late February, I received a phone call at 9am. It was a really gutting rejection. I had made it down to the final 2 candidates for a brilliant job, but my lack of experience meant, in the end, they had gone for the other candidate. I was doomed to failure. How could I possibly go on...

At 5pm I received another call. This time from someone I had never spoken to. Her name was Sarah and she was a recruiter. She had been looking for candidates to fill a senior developer role at a fast growing company and came across my LinkedIn, there was currently no open junior position but she wanted to suggest they meet me anyway.

They agreed and I interviewed over two rounds. I didn’t know a single language in their tech stack and this was a software developer position, not web development as I had been applying for. I made no secret of my inexperience but was able to talk at length about what I did know and where I could see crossover with my experience. It probably helped that the head of development is a fan of escape rooms.

I got the job 🥳!

Advice On Job Hunting

The best advice I received on job hunting was from a recruiter; “set out your shop”. You’re selling a product and you need the customer to know immediately why they should buy. This means your LinkedIn, CV and portfolio all need to instantly tell that story.

There is a lot of conflicting advice about how different you should be with your CV design. There is always the danger of going too over the top and putting people off. Given my creative background, I wasn’t content with the plain black and white bullet point list and so tried to make it my own. My latest “unconventional” CV was mentioned positively in the interview so this worked for me.

You saw my job history earlier, none of it a direct link to a job in tech, but it wasn’t irrelevant. Look for the transferrable skills and sell them in your CV. Never apologise for your past experiences as a self taught developer, it makes you a unique candidate with a different perspective. Transferable skills could be: communication, leadership, project management, ability to teach others, public speaking, writing documentation, problem solving etc.

I changed the content of my cover letter frequently, especially when I had a string of rejections, but it generally followed this template:

👉 Cover Letter Template

  • 2 sentence elevator pitch
  • unique 2 - 3 sentences about how I fit this job
  • 2 sentences on my transferable skills
  • main usable project that shows my skills
  • point to portfolio site

Alongside the brilliant Scrimba podcast, when it comes to interview prep, I want to point you in the direction of Don Georgevich on YouTube. His advice is golden and his videos are practical and engaging.

Prepare a 30 secondabout me pitch. The first question of almost every interview will be “so tell us about yourself?”. You don’t want to sound like a rehearsed robot (that’s where my actor training came in), but know the bullet points. What you say will influence the rest of the interview so include things you want to talk about.

Finally, remember that your first job is not the end goal so keep learning while you are applying. Some suggested areas:

  • Agile working practises
  • Unit testing (Scrimba has a beginner course on this)
  • Object oriented programming
  • A CSS Framework
  • If you see something come up time and again in job descriptions, learn it

My First Three Weeks

As I write this I am finishing up on my 3rd week in the job. It has been a complete whirlwind and was initially very overwhelming. It took me the first week just to set up my laptop correctly, and even now I am still discovering missing login credentials and permissions as new things are introduced.

Being a developer has, for the first time, made working from home a possibility for me. This has presented even more challenges as I understand what it means to work in a team remotely but the flexible, hybrid policy we have is also one of the best things I have ever experienced. The office is swish and modern with a great buzz, but as the UK summer weather slowly creeps in, I am enjoying my outdoor set up.

I am now starting to find my feet and handle my first low level coding tasks. My squad are brilliant and all are very happy to pitch in and help me when I need it. My biggest piece of advice is ask questions. Don’t pretend to know things, no one is expecting that of you. Questions are a great excuse to reach out and connect with different members of your team, so don’t always go to the same person for help.

When you ask your questions, make sure you have had a stab at it first, then be specific with what you need and what you have tried already. Once you have your answer be humble in accepting it. Don’t brush off their help like it wasn’t useful or make out that you would have tried that next.

Ask your manager about their expectations for your onboarding so that everyone knows where they stand. And when you meet people try to remember their names, especially those you work closest with.

If, like me, you are spending time working remote, turn on your camera in meetings so that people get to recognise you as a friendly face. Don’t forget to breathe when things get stressful and never let the imposter syndrome seep in. There is still a long way to go but you have accomplished something huge to be here.

Final Thoughts

Starting a new job is tough, changing career is tougher. Reach out to your support network (friends, family, coding communities, social groups etc) they don’t need to understand code to help you with this journey. And remember that it is a journey. The goal is not to get a job, it is to be better, that first job is just one step on the way, a foot in the door.

If, like me, you are all caught up with the Scrimba podcast and are waiting for that next episode then I also recommend the Soft Skills Engineering podcast  to give you a light hearted window into the working environment.

I have also just started reading The Phoenix Project; a novel about managing DevOps and IT. It is a great and engaging read, recommended to me by my head of development, and it is really helping me understand how the departments in my new workplace fit together.

Now, go and open up that code editor and complete this sentence about your next coding project. “Wouldn’t it be cool if...